Losing Sucks.  And with the late Luther Vandross belting “One Shining Moment” at the close of another NCAA Tournament, 67 schools wonder how things could’ve ended in that slo-motion net-cutting moment.  Meanwhile, 280 schools wonder what it will take to get into the Big Dance.  For just about everybody it’s a slippery slope on the way to the top;  a prized recruit attends another school, an athletic director makes a bad hire… and the winter of one’s discontent can turn into several years.  Losing Sucks.  Whether you were Michigan unable to turn back the Louisville tidal wave, Syracuse unable to get the block call instead of the charge, Georgetown unable to nip March’s most memorable story in the bud, Maryland unable to win on the road in the ACC, George Mason unable to keep Luke Hancock around campus, American unable to put 40 smart minutes together, Howard unable to break the cycle of 20-loss seasons or the Maryland women unable to keep its backcourt off crutches–Losing Sucks.  But it’s worth the missed shots, the blown calls, the misjudged recruits…because Luther had pretty damn good pipes.  Just hearing that song makes a lot of the heartbreak manageable…and if it just happens to be your school’s “One Shining Moment”– don’t let it go.  Ever.

Cardinals Rule– It’s hard to think that this Louisville team was once a teetering ship that malfunctioned multiple times at Notre Dame during a 5-overtime marathon, wrapping up a 3-4 stretch that took coach Rick Pitino’s team from top ranked to partially tanked.  Credit the Hall of Famer for getting this team back in gear– and 16 wins later, they’re National Champs.  Credit Luke Hancock for averaging 21 points during the Final Four in Kevin Ware’s absence.  Credit the Cardinal pressure generating turnovers on the perimeter while locking down inside and dominating the glass against Michigan.  Credit Jim Nantz for not coming up with a blatantly ridiculous pun at the final buzzer.

Alma Mater Update– what did I say?  Losing Sucks.  But what a run by the Orange.  The VAUNTED 2-3 ZONE must now be capitalized and in boldface with italics for one calendar year.  I still think I’m watching the halfcourt offense every time I drive through DC– come on people, it’s a crosswalk!  Make your way with some kind of purpose!  I still have to shake my head when I realize this team had lost 4 of 5 entering the Big East Tournament, the killer a 39 point effort against Georgetown.  I still get goosebumps when I remember the upset of Indiana and recall the net-cutting after beating Marquette.  I still wonder if Mike Hopkins will be Tom Izzo or Craig Esherick (THAT IS CRAP!).  I still try to imagine how the move the ACC will help or hurt this program from an immediate as well as a longterm standpoint.  I still marvel at the fist-pumping high-fiving comradery I have with fellow alums in Orange Nation win or lose.  And I still know it’s 9:39 PM. 

Bye Bye Big East– National Champs in 1984, 85, 99, 03, 04, 11, 13.  Not a bad tally for a latecomer to the big time… and then redefined what Big Time was.  Great memories of incredible games and Hall of Fame coaches and unbelievable players.  The 34 year history of excellence will live on…in the “New Big East” (hopefully more “Frasier” than “AfterMASH”), the ACC (7 of the 14 schools in the league next summer will have Big East ties) and the American Athletic Conference– yeah, whatever.  Losing Sucks.

Terps end near where they started– it’s just a matter of it you take the subway or a cab from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to Madison Square Garden.  A thrilling 58-57 win at Alabama sent coach Mark Turgeon’s team to the NIT Semifinals–and despite a 71-60 loss to Iowa there’s plenty of positives to take into the offseason.  Now the question is if sophomore center Alex Len returns to College Park.  Enough scouts like his upside– but he’s had more than a few consistently uneven stretches.  You’d think he’d stay to get more polish– but the money’s probably there to be a semi-project in the NBA.  The program will definitely lose the last player on the roster to have played for Gary Williams– Pe’Shon Howard transferring to be closer to his ill grandmother in California.  For whatever reason it just didn’t work for the junior under coach Turgeon– he missed 18 games last winter and this past season shot under 30% from the field.  All the best to a good kid.  And all the best to a Terrapin progam that chooses between Nick Faust, Seth Allen or freshman Roddy Peters to run the offense next season.

Maryland Womens Minute– the Terps came up short against eventual National Champion Connecticut 76-50… before the Huskies bludgeoned its final three opponents in the tournament by an average of 27 points.  The world of womens hoops this winter involved such a gap between the elite and the upper tier… and coach Brenda Frese’s team after losing its starting backcourt to torn ACL’s found itself overmatched and overworked.  Can another solid recruiting class combined withinjured players Laurin Mincy and Brene Mosley returning to form negate the loss of four year starter Tianna Hawkins?  Alyssa Thomas returns for one more run through the ACC…Duke and UNC beware.

Coaching Carousel– when will it stop?  Actually, never.  A few notable moves over the last few weeks…

Steve Alford went from New Mexico to UCLA…if ever there was a blue-blood player turned blue-blood coach around to guide the blue-blood Bruins, it’s the former IU All-American and Olympian.  His success at various stops now feels like a precursor to this career-making (Wooden) or career-breaking (Cunningham, Hazzard, etc) move.  The pressure at Pauley Pavillion is just enough to turn out a coach who led them to three straight Final Fours (Howland).  But after operating on the fringes it’ll be interesting to see how Alford deals with a prime time program that’s expected to win big consistently.

Andy Enfield went from Anonymity to USC…while Alford’s career has been a slow broil, the ex-Florida Gulf Coast coach’s run has been a high heat microwave trip.  He’s charismatic, energetic…respected in NBA circles.  Enfield teaches a pro-style offense that recruits will flock to.  He’s going to be recruiting in Southern California.  And he took his Maxim model wife out to Taco Bell on their first date…while proposing with a ring stuck between Krispy Kreme donuts.  Let’s just say the guy has moxie.  And the bar in Troy is much lower than Westwood.

Richard Pitino went from being Rick Pitino’s son to being Rick Pitino’s son at a Big Ten job…one never knows how a coach’s kid will fare when on his own (Pat Knight, Sean Sutton) and it’s not easy to win at Minnesota (unless you want the eventual NCAA Probation).  He’s had one year as a head coach and led Florida Atlantic to an 18-14 record.  Now he might turn into something special, but the Big Ten is not the ECAC North where his father cut his teeth at Boston University.  And the Golden Gophers got rid of a perfectly decent coach in Tubby Smith who had been somewhat successful.

Chris Collins went from CBS’ halftime interview to the Big Ten’s Abyss… I can’t wait to see Wojo handle that role next year, although I don’t think it’s fair for Coach K not to rotate his assistants in the halftime interview segment.  Although he did speak at the half this year.  I think after losing to Louisville, Coach K will view his halftime chats as bad luck and give one of his managers the role next winter.  The last few sentences has intentionally kept me from writing about Northwestern Mens’ Basketball.

Mike Rice Jr. went from Rutgers to Infamy… Wow.  Beyond career-napalming.  How does that happen for so long without anything coming out?  Oh yeah, Rutgers.  I’ll call this the Curse of Gary Waters– the Scarlet Knights hired him away from Kent State and despite 3 winning seasons in 5 years, dumped him for Fred Hill (57-77 over 4 years) and now Mike Rice (11-25 after 2 seasons).  Since Waters left, Rutgers hasn’t only lost every season– they’ve placed in the teens of the Big East (13th or lower) every single year.  Athletic Department misfires aside, Rice cooked himself with belligerent behavior that not only crossed over the line but ran far beyond it.  Shoving and kicking players from behind is akin to attacking a defenseless receiver in the NFL– you just don’t do it.  Homophobic slurs in 2013– you just don’t do it.  Not with video.  Not with sound.  You wonder if Rice let the pressures of handling a sinking program in the Big East get the better of him.  You hope that he gets the necessary help to move on.  But you know that he’s justifiably out of there…and probably shouldn’t be anywhere for a while.

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